“Spot” Cannot Substitute For Spouse

I hear it’s universal. A spouse dies and before you know it, someone – usually a grown child – brings up the “D” word: Have you considered getting a dog?

Apparently, the reasoning goes, there is a resemblance between the two.

“Dogs are such good company,” says my diplomatic oldest, the owner of an almost-human pug named Winston. He raises the subject obliquely by suggesting that a dog might bring comfort to his mother-in-law, also a widow.

“They meet you at the door,” he says. “They are always happy to see you.”

“They pee on the carpet,” I add.

“Of course, they are not for everyone,” he says.

I marvel at his dexterity. The one who as a toddler crouched so low under the coffee table that he never bumped his head has constructed a safe escape route and happily moved on.
Not so with his younger brother. “Oughta get a dog,” he says. “Might want to check your front porch.”

He waits for a reaction.

The one who in middle school parked a toilet on the neighbor’s front porch seems capable of delivering more than flowers.

“Don’t you dare,” I say, and try giving him the evil eye, which brings back a smirk I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Even the sensitive youngest jumps on board. “It’s karma,” she whispers as a yellow lab therapy dog surveys the entire circle at a grief group we’re attending and takes a running leap for my lap.

“He’s smelly,” I whisper back, apparently none too quietly because the next week Karma Dog hops back up thoroughly shampooed. This time he looks up with soulful brown eyes and nuzzles me like an old friend.

I have to admit that in the anniversary month of my husband’s death Karma Dog gives me pause. He seems fairly intelligent. I suppose we could have a conversation about dinner or possibly going for a walk and whether he might be able to contain himself this time and not take off after the Doberman down the street and get us both killed.

But I’ve never met a dog who could provide a one-word reminder, based on a story shared only by us, that this is not the first time I have over-reacted to some “crisis” that really was not.

I’ve never met a dog so diplomatic that he would begin any slightly adversarial conversation with the words “I have a request….”

And I’ve never met a dog who offered an opinion on the global implications of an oil slick off the coast of Mississippi or the likelihood of Barack Obama’s old Senate seat turning Republican in 2010.

No doubt, Karma Dog has many fine qualities. I am sure that he would greet me with cuddling and unconditional love and wild enthusiasm after a nano-second’s absence to bring in the mail.

My husband, on the other hand, might have simply looked up from the computer, made a comment on the news, and offered to make a salad for dinner.

Somehow, I liked that better.

Copyright 2010 Pat Snyder

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